Storyboard – No. 04

July 6, 2018

Dear Reader,

It’s been just about three months since I’ve published something new. I’m calling this span of time a much needed brain-break, a rest-and-reset, or maybe just a falling off of the merry-go-round I am on with my-life-with-loss, a result of going a bit too fast and spinning in too many directions at once. My writing and the continuation of the telling of my story has now had this necessary, self-imposed pause, and as of today, this segment has gathered a lengthy, unexpected list of happenings involving people, possessions, and my evolving position on living this life. I keep thinking of my present life as one, big biking adventure, and when it veers off some perceived course and the brakes don’t seem to work, I’m shouting in my mind and sometimes out loud, “It’s my bike ride damnit!” which basically means “focus” to attempt taking control, “stop being distracted” to do what is needing the most attention, and most often “you have your own shit to do, stop doing everyone else’s shit.” This last thought may sound harsh, but for me, cancer and grief has put me on the defensive about the trajectory of time, and specifically the use of my emotional and physical energy in it, whether asleep or awake. It’s release comes at a high cost to me, and if I’m not careful with the speed and breadth of it, I fear I won’t have enough energy to make good decisions, or worse, really fuck something up or not be mentally-present when I’m needed most by my two teen-aged children. My fears and grief are intertwined, like tree roots and poison ivy on a mountain bike ride, no matter how I try avoid them, it seems like I steer directly at them regularly.

Today it has been 21 months since Jon died. At nearly a year and half without him, at that time, my own well-being and “just being” had hit a hard wall. It’s not easy to say, but I reached a total energy depletion. Days while my kids were at school, I found myself in the month of May sleeping extra hours, my brain felt utterly useless and my body refused to cooperate and felt weak. I think after putting on my “brave face” without real replenishment for so long both before and after Jon died, one day the whole of me literally expired with a capital “E” for Empty. Only very slowly, with giving in to all that extra sleep, crying about everything all over again well into June, and doing effectively what felt like a hiding-of-myself-away, had I finally begun to feel like I was able to function, think more clearly, and could exercise without needing a nap afterwards.

This pause had also, in-part, included and yielded some new writing, most is the kind that is too difficult to readily share, because the depths of my mind have been a messy place to be. There became my having more awareness and sharp delineations between what should be public versus private, those boundaries have resulted in some protective walls going up, needing time to reflect moreso in, than out. Sometimes, I chose to write only to myself, or privately to closest friends. I’m not a person who just spews out words to the public just for saying, so if ever those thoughts from that time end up here, it will be for good reason.

What needs saying now though, is that it has been a full year since our family trip to Canada, and the continuation of ‘Storyboard’ with more telling about that week, needs both a bringing forward to the present and a catching up from being one year ago in the past: like a boomerang, it’s gone a far ways-away, yet now it’s ready to come back to me. And just maybe, my current, evolved emotional state now will be able to handle where my mind was then, in what was in real-time, exactly one year ago. As I share with you now, and continue my story, I invite you read on and to be with me. Be. With. Me. ~P.

Storyboard – No. 04

Ontario, Canada – July 4, 2017

Valhalla

Being in Canada over the Independence Day holiday was a perfect excuse not to celebrate it. That matter of place in being outside of the U.S., or north of the wall as I think of it, and having no fireworks show or patriotic songs, easily put it all furthest from my mind. All of my family members and I are focused on just a few important activities here this week: fishing, family-time, and Jon’s ashes. Today we will be making preparations for his last official ashes celebration. We decided our event will be tomorrow, July 5th, fulfilling the last of his three requested locations. First on the agenda though, there will be fishing and a fantastic outing called a “shore lunch.” Afterwards, when we return to our island, event preparations will be in the form of making paper boats to be created by each family member. Then, tomorrow, there will be fire, and Valhalla will be welcoming him home. Will. Be.

Early morning at the dock, all on board for today’s fishing excursion. The lake is particularly smooth and glass-like. This calmness is what I seem to lack the most of in my mind today, so this picture will serve as a reminder for what I wish and wonder if ever I will be. Ever. Will. Be.

My kids and I bought large sheets of Canson paper, selected in colors of calming-blues, blood-red burgundy, and stone-greys. Mom taught us the paper boat folding method, and all together at the table we began to assemble a fine fleet in various sizes and designs, our own messages and symbols of love drawn on the sides and hulls. Our working together was mostly silent, but the sounds of paper-creasing, markers-squeaking, and the occasional musical melody of our voices, echoes in the sparsely furnished room. It blended all together to help us work along. I feel myself looking on, not so much in the middle of this process. I imagine making a boat will also make tears flow, and I don’t want more of that in front of everyone, so I look on and take pictures instead. This detachment I am feeling is not something I can snap out of, and I think I’m hiding it, but really, I’m that rabbit sitting perfectly still in a barren field, I hide nothing very well.

As we were going about our boat building business on this Tuesday evening, suddenly the light from outside seemed to darken, and looking out through the large, glass-sliding doors to the deck, we noticed a dramatic change in the weather. A storm was coming in fast, and reflective calm waters were now choppy and windswept. A dense, misty fog had descended on the water, shrouded our small island, and gusts of rain began dousing our cabin. Time seemed to stand still.

The storm and air pressure then shifted to a new phase. The fog cleared, and an odd-glow from gold-tinged, cloudy patches mixed with a steely-blue sky canvas revealed the most intense rainbow in the distance we had ever seen. We all took turns standing on our deck taking in what we were being shown: a full, high-arcing rainbow perfectly centered in the distance over the water outside of our cabin.

Ever since Jon died, I have chosen to show my face in pictures mostly with some form of smiling. It’s what I need people to see, an outer-image will be shared, and combined with my “natural instinct” to please others, dutifully I just do it, and in the process, reassure you and remind myself: I’m still alive, albeit grieving, but smiling anyway. However, there are other pictures I have taken of myself along this journey with no smiling. I’m talking about the crying ones, where at the moment I realize the need to document the sad state I feel, I take a picture of my distorted face to reflect later. It’s a way to privately acknowledge my range of emotions, despair to anger to fear, all of this, and I often look at these pictures as proof to myself that this loss is real and not imagined. To show you, the reader, my face with a sad expression, is to reveal how I’m feeling on the inside. Do you really want or need to see that? I don’t think so. Who chooses to see a sobbing mess, sagging skin, and a tear-streaked face? You or I can’t fix it, but I feel it, and my seeing it makes it real. So in that spirit, this sad picture, I choose to share now with you because one year after the fact, it’s okay for you to see, for you to know my reality. My whole being was lost in gazing at that rainbow. Looking at it from end-to-end, following its curved trail woven through the clouds, wishing I could reach out and touch it, I felt so certain he was there somewhere along its path. What I felt most at this moment was our separation, the time and distance between our souls. The pressing air and that surreal glow was connecting us now, and tiny raindrops where finding their way to my face like soft kisses. I now saw Jon as a part of the universe, in Valhalla, but I’m left behind in human form, standing in place and falling without him to catch me or hold me up. His life and his love for me are done and gone, so my life is effectively over without him here. In full disclosure, I felt that day, “I have nothing except a rainbow, and it too, will leave me.” While in Canada, even though I was in such close quarters with my family, at this moment especially, I feel so alone, so weighed down by thoughts that I will never be loved again. Will. Never. Be.

What came next that evening surprised everyone. In fact, the next day, we heard from others at the dock that they, too, never saw anything like it. Just as the rainbow faded, and the sky darkened to later evening, the wind had changed, and began blowing in from a completely opposite direction. It was another storm, this time with billowing, rolling silvery-clouds, a darkened, ash-grey sky, and bursts of lighting that flashed and popped. Again, our family watched in awe of what we were shown. And again, on the deck I stood, feeling alone, attempting to capture lightning in a picture, holding back tears.

Thank you for reading. The story will continue with ‘Storyboard – No. 05.’

~ Paula

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